Saving Companies Millions on Printing – by Design
By Keith Nickoloff | April 27, 2017
At the start of an engagement, our new customers typically ask what savings are possible and what steps should they follow. Most companies want to spend less on their office printing and they want to create a user-friendly printing environment that’s secure and optimized for their business needs.
We demonstrate how they can realistically save 50% or more off their baseline (their current state) and we show them the path forward to their desired future state. We achieve this with objective data, strategic design, and clear communications. Here are some of our strategy guidelines:
Start with these fundamental points about print:
Devices don’t print, people do. If you’re not managing people, you’re not managing print—and you’re leaving 50% of your potential savings on the table.
People print for only two reasons – because they want to (~40%) or because they have to (~60%). Both can be reduced by half; convenience printing can be reduced more quickly than process-based workflows.
Employees print in three places: the office, the internal print shop (if your organization has one), and with external print providers.
- Build an integrated, holistic strategy. An effective strategy must consider the three areas in which people print, which are all interdependent. The internal print shop was designed to be high volume, high quality, and low cost. A holistic strategy must properly leverage this capability and design the office printer fleet with the print shop in mind, so that the work that belongs in the office stays in the office while the larger and more complex print jobs are handled by the experts in the print shop.
- Know your stuff: You need to understand what you have and how much you spend. Focus on these four metrics to help you identify your true baseline and quantify the savings opportunity that lies ahead:
- The number of pages printed per user
- The number of pages printed per device
- The percentage of volume printed in color
- The percentage of volume printed on personal, locally attached devicesOf course, you need to know how many employees and devices you have (including all multi-function devices or MFDs, single-function printers, and locally attached personal printers). These are needed to do perform a successful benchmarking exercise and establish a solid business case.
- Focus on the demand side of printing. Recognize that reducing demand for print is as much about change management as it is about print management. Success requires senior leadership modeling and well-executed communications. Our experience shows that results are multiplied by using secure pull printing technology and automated policy enforcement to complement the strategy and drive down unnecessary print volume.
The goal is to build a culture of mindful printing that results in less printing, less paper, less waste, fewer devices, less power used, and much lower costs. On the other side, you become more secure, more sustainable, more user-friendly, and more efficient.
When I said you need to “know your stuff,” I don’t mean you need to be a print expert like Pharos. I mean you need to know what “stuff” you have in your organization – the number of devices, the number of employees, the number of pages printed each year, and so on. In aggregate, these data points provide the basic framework to compute your organization’s baseline spending on all print-related activity.
You need to start with this comprehensive reference point so that you can understand your current state, clarify your desired future state, begin to see your ROI opportunity, and ultimately look back on your annual savings and efficiency gains.
Even if you only know how many employees you have, it’s a start. We can help you with the rest. Our benchmarks suggest that on average, most organizations print more than 550 pages per employee per month. Multiply your number of employees by 550 pages per month and your average monthly print output begins to emerge.
Of course, a volume estimate is just scratching the surface. The cost for this volume varies based on manufacturer, model, and device utilization, but you can expect current monochrome costs to be around $.0275 per page and around $.125 per page for color.
Yes, color printing is often 3-5 times more expensive than monochrome. Color usage varies by industry more than any other data point. In the healthcare industry, we rarely see color output exceed 10%, but in the big brand manufacturers, color print is typically around 35%. In banking, specifically wealth management, we have seen color output as high as 65% of all print. In higher education, color consistently represents about 15-20% of volume when combining student printing with faculty and staff printing.
Using that 550 pages per month per employee estimate, now factor in your industry’s likely color output, and the numbers grow still more. Then take this average cost per page for monochrome volume and color volume and add $.00625 per page for paper. Armed with these conservative estimates, you can begin to see how printing costs are much higher than many business leaders realize. There’s a much greater opportunity to save than first meets the eye.
Many organizations overlook a key component of the price per page factor that I mentioned earlier. We sometimes hear, “Printing costs us less than $.01 per page!” The missing ingredient is how the device was acquired. Is your fleet purchased, leased, or rented? There is a fixed cost in each option, be it the lease payment or the monthly depreciation charge. This fixed charge varies from 40-60% of the total cost, depending on how each device is utilized.
For some of our large customers, these annual baseline costs total in the tens of millions. Based on a company’s business-critical printing workflows and culture, we help them reduce this volume by 35-60%. These savings are realized year after year.
Along with this annual savings comes efficiency improvements including less paper, less energy, less infrastructure, less waste/trash removal, and less risk. More specifically, less risk that confidential information is printed and then forgotten at a device, potentially getting into the wrong hands. Secure pull printing technology prevents this from happening. This important risk avoidance factor probably deserves its own line, especially in healthcare, financial, insurance, and manufacturing companies.
So, now you know a little bit more about the typical cost of printing and some of the many factors at play when you begin the process of optimizing your organization’s print environment. The next part, and I believe the fun part, is the strategic design – paving the path forward to lowest cost, greater efficiency, better security, and more sustainable printing workflows.
Now begins the fun part: the strategic design. Here, I will introduce several keys to achieving greater efficiency, better security, more sustainable printing workflows, and ultimately the lowest costs for your enterprise printing operations.
Once you have your benchmarks and a better understanding of print-related costs, start by asking three simple questions:
- What are we trying to achieve?
- What problems are we trying to solve?
- What does a healthy outcome look like?
It’s important to be holistic in your thinking and ensure that your print strategy addresses the big picture. When you have defined your goals and your desired future state, create a print policy that encapsulates these goals and communicates to employees the purpose of the change to come.
To be successful, this policy must have senior executive sponsorship. Introducing a policy that executive stakeholders agree on will increase buy-in across the organization and simplify the design and implementation process.
This policy will form the basis of your communication framework and establish your organization’s volume reduction goals. Aim high and be bold: your volume reduction goal (and therefore savings goal) should be no less than 35% off your baseline.
Next, go after the low-hanging fruit. Default all your devices to monochrome (black & white) and duplex (double-sided). As part of your policy, require that all printers be on the network and eliminate personal desktop printers – they are by far the most expensive and wasteful printers you can own on a cost-per-page basis. Suspend the purchase of any new printers until your design is complete. Most organizations already have twice as many devices as they need.
Design for Reduced Demand
Another important success factor is to design around where the print volume will be, not where it is today. That is, take what you’ve learned about your current state benchmarks and business-critical print workflows and design around a reduced demand for print in your future state.
Every new device you can avoid buying averages a savings of more than $5,000. In many traditional Managed Print Services (MPS) proposals, customers are commonly presented with a reduction in their number of printers via standardization and rightsizing. The problem is, this “rightsizing” is typically based on existing print volumes, rather than the reduced print volumes that you can expect when you properly address the demand side. When you can optimize your environment for a reduced demand for print, that’s how you achieve the real breakthroughs in cost savings and efficiency.
Place your printers strategically. They should be located where your power users are—the people who require the most print to satisfy business requirements and processes. Using Beacon Analytics, you can quickly identify these power users and incorporate their needs and habits into your fleet design.
For example, if two people typically print about 1,000 pages per month, and one does it with 4 large jobs and the other does it with hundreds of smaller jobs, place the printer(s) closer to the latter individual. Those who need to print the most frequently should be in proximity to the devices they need.
Minimize color and 11×17 device placements. Color pages cost 2-5x more than monochrome. In most organizations, 90% of print never leaves the building, so what value does color add to most documents? Across all our customers, we have yet to find one that produces more than 2% of total volume on 11×17 paper. Why then are most multi-function printers equipped for 11×17 paper? For optimal energy, space, and cost savings, we prefer A4 or letter/legal devices.
These guidelines are just a start, but they will help you to start saving money immediately and lay the foundation for greater savings and efficiency gains down the road. Part 4 of this series will dive deeper into the strategy and provide guidance for successful employee education, optimal device configurations, and the deployment of secure pull printing technology.
Now the deeper dive begins, the execution of a comprehensive print strategy – incorporating the print policy, design, and communications plans – delivered in phases to ultimately arrive at a print environment that is more secure, cost-efficient, and sustainable.
As with most things, communication and change management are key. To get the most value out of your print strategy, you need to help employees make better choices. Start with a communications campaign that makes print personal. It should demonstrate that print is not free; it comes with significant cost. Use the data you gathered in the initial phase to share printing costs by department so that managers can compare results and set and track goals for individual employees.
The objective is to get everyone in the habit of thinking before they print – to change the relationship employees have with paper documents. Communications should clearly state the benefits of printing less, and everyone should understand the goals of your new print policy and the role they play in meeting those goals. We are not just in the managing print business, we are in the change business!
Brand the campaign so that it touches the hearts and minds of your people. Communicate early and often. Engage your sustainability leadership; they will prove to be essential advocates. From our experience, we know that employees want to do the right thing, they just need to know what is expected of them.
Make it clear that this is not an anti-print campaign, but a mindful print campaign. Nobody wants to be wasteful; when employees understand the real costs of their printing, they will be motivated to do the right thing and they will begin to form better printing habits.
Business leaders should lead by example and eliminate their personal printers in favor of shared network devices. They should not bring their PowerPoint handouts printed in color, one-sided, and in superfluous quantities “just in case” they’re needed.
Instead, they should help promote and sustain the “print less” mindset and celebrate successes along the way. They should tell stories that reflect the current state against the former baseline output across various departments. They can even gamify the program, leveraging ongoing print data and communications to further engage the workforce and take the awareness of printing costs to the next level.
Secure printing leads to less printing
Nothing reduces unnecessary printing volume like secure pull printing technology. When you secure all devices across your organization—all single-function printers and multi-function devices in all locations—you will see printing output drop by 25% even without a sustained communications campaign. When you combine the two, you can expect to cut printing output and therefore costs by 40%, and that’s conservative.
In a secure print environment, employees authenticate at their chosen printer using their network credentials or access card. This means they are physically present at a device to release and collect their documents, thus eliminating forgotten and abandoned prints. Documents that are submitted but not released will simply expire. These unprinted submissions are recorded in reports as “waste savings.” In other words, you’ll have an ongoing record of money saved due to documents that were sent to a print queue but never printed, and therefore were not likely essential to business.
Over the course of many years and across organizations of all sizes and industries, our customers consistently report waste savings of between 25 and 40 percent of their total submitted volume.
Ancillary benefits galore
A secure print environment also reduces risk; document confidentiality is protected and devices are locked down for employee use only. The confidentiality factor also makes it possible to eliminate personal desktop printers – the most expensive printer type on a per-page basis. The argument to keep them for the sake of privacy becomes a moot point.
An environment of secured, networked multi-function devices also improves convenience for employees and provides better leverage for service negotiations. If an employee’s preferred printer is temporarily occupied or out of service, he or she can simply release their document at another printer without having to re-submit it. And, the ability to release a document at any printer on the network means that you probably don’t need to pay for rapid support response timeframes to guarantee printer availability.
You can also reduce all those print queues down to one or two, for example one color queue and one monochrome queue. In large organizations, this means that hundreds or even thousands of print queues and dead queues can be eliminated. This is a benefit that your already burdened IT staff will appreciate.
Mindful configurations and policies
In part 3, we touched on right-sizing your printer fleet and using cost-efficient default settings, but there’s so much more that you can do to continually drive down costs. After you have gone after the low-hanging fruit, you can reinforce the print policy you have communicated across the enterprise by deploying automated policy controls.
With Blueprint Enterprise, you can create customized rules that communicate your organization’s print policies to reinforce desired printing behaviors and educate users right at the moment they choose to print. If a submitted print job is within your policy parameters, no message is displayed. However, if a submitted print job does not comply with your policy, the employee receives a pop-up message that shows the cost of the job and offers an opportunity to cancel it. If it’s important, the employee can bypass the message and proceed with the print job. You can also create messages that restrict certain print jobs without offering the opportunity to bypass the message.
For example, you could restrict color print jobs that exceed a certain number of pages, or any print jobs submitted from a web browser or email client. You can set different policy messages by groups, departments, locations, etc. It’s often best to phase-in these policies after you have communicated your print strategy and set your cost reduction goals.
Go digital, stay digital
Finally, it’s important to transition to digital workflows wherever possible. People only print for two reasons: because they have to (a business process that requires paper – typically about 60%) or because they want to (convenience or habit – about 40%). Leverage your printing data to identify the largest cost outliers and evaluate the jobs that are being printed. You’ll probably find that many of these documents can remain digital and be every bit as effective with some simple habit changes.
When people know they are being stack ranked by how much print cost they are producing, two great things happen: the 40% habitual print drops dramatically and immediately, and you learn a lot about the processes and workflows that may require some re-engineering.
There’s all of this and so much more. We have helped companies of all sizes to reduce their enterprise printing costs to the tune of millions of dollars. Let us help you establish more mindful and sustainable printing habits in your organization. You’ll be proud of the results and impressed by how much more secure and efficient your organization can be. Start the conversation today!